Ruleshammer: Age of Sigmar Core Battalions

You’ve got your army, you even added up the points to play a matched play game but you aren’t really sure how Core Battalions work. Do you need to take them? Should you? How many units should go into one? We’ll probably answer these questions and more, so read on if Core Battalions confuse you a bit (or a lot).

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For the context of this article I’ll be talking about Matched Play games and the General’s Handbook 2021. The new edition of Age of Sigmar removed Warscroll Battalions from the game and have left them for Narrative and Open play games. Instead “Core Battalions” were added to to organise our armies into. This allows a more level playing field where everyone at least has access to the same perks.

But what are Core battalions anyways?

They’re how you can organise the units in your army. There are 6 in the Core book and 2 more in the General’s Handbook. Battletomes released for 3rd edition also introduce more core battalions that are are specific to those armies, as well as some White Dwarf magazine supplements for armies that are likely not getting a new tome any time soon. I’ll just be covering the 8 that all armies are able to use today and we’ll get to the army specific ones in relevant army reviews. So far, army specific battalions gives access to the same perks, just different unit combinations to get there.

The battalions use different unit types, which are sort of confusingly given different names than you would otherwise know them as, and they are:

Commander: This is any unit that is a Leader. This does not have to be your general, just simply a unit that you bought for your army with the Leader role. 

Sub-commander: Any unit that is a Leader and also has a wounds characteristic less than 10. As above, however, mostly your foot and cavalry-mounted Leaders. 

Troops: Any unit that is NOT a Leader, Behemoth, or Artillery. Basically, everything else in your army which introduces some weird interactions but I will touch on that later. Important to note that this is not just Battleline, but any unit that doesn’t fit into those 3 categories.

Artillery: Any unit with the “Artillery” role. Easy enough.

Monster: These are your Behemoths. Specifically Behemoths that are not also Leaders. Not necessarily actual Monster keyword models or units, just ones that fill the Behemoth role when building your army. Some subfactions change Behemoths to be Battleline instead and in these instances they are no longer Behemoth so now fill the Troops slot instead, as dumb as that seems at first. One of these odd ones is Kharadron Overlord ships, the Frigates and Ironclads are Behemoths so fit this slot even though they’re not actual monsters. 

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Strange Unit interactions 

Now these units might seem mostly straight forward, and in many armies they will be! There are a few exceptions where it can become a bit muddy and get confusing. 

For instance, not all Hero keyword models are Leader Battlefield Role. While rare, a couple examples such as the Grimwrath Berzerker and Doomseeker for Fyreslayers actually fill the Troops slot instead in battalions. 

When units change battlefield role via subfaction, a specific hero being the general, or some other way then their new battlefield role is used for battalions. Examples for this are pretty broad but some are:

  • Kharadron Overlords – Frigates in a Barak Zilfin army stop being Behemoth and instead are Battleline so now fit the Troops slot. 
  • Ogor Mawtribes – Stonehorn/Thundertusk Beastriders change from Behemoth to Battleline if your general is Beastclaw Raiders so again they fit in the Troop slots instead of Monster.
  • Seraphon – Thunderlizard armies make Stegadons (without a Skink Chief) Battleline so similarly they fill Troops instead of Monster slots. 

You get the idea, what the unit actually fits isn’t always what you might expect it to be and it can shift. It would have been less confusing and probably just better if they instead used the word Behemoth instead of Monster for the battalion slots, but that’s just not the world we live in. 

Grotz and Bolt-Skewers – Credit: RichyP

Why am I using Core Battalions anyways? 

Each of the battalions give you one or more additional effects for your army or for the units within that battalion. There are 6 different kinds of abilities that these can give and these abilities (and their symbols) are shared across all core battalions:

Unified: All of the units in this battalion must be dropped at once during deployment. This will give you an edge in minimising your number of drops which can give you priority in the first turn. This also means you’ll have to be more careful and have a plan because you can’t wait to see where other enemy units are placed first and respond.

Magnificent: Gives your army one additional enhancement when building your army. This can be extra prayers/spells, another artefact, mount trait, triumph, etc. This is particularly used for getting additional artefacts, as there’s few lists who don’t benefit from it.

Slayers: Once during your game one of the units within this battalion can receive the All Out Attack (+1 to hit) or Unleash Hell (shoot at enemy that just charged nearby) command without the command being issued to them or a command point being spent. This was since clarified in an FAQ as well that this does still stop another unit being issued the same order during the same phase, so does not suddenly allow you to Unleash Hell with multiple units in one phase, which seems fair. 

Strategists: When you receive command points at the start of any hero phase, once per game you can gain 1 additional command point for that battle round. Almost every army benefits from extra command points (except OBR but they get RDP as well) and some armies can require a lot to feed them so having one or two extra to throw around can be massive. 

Swift: Similar to Slayers above, a unit within the battalion can be issued the At the Double (auto 6” run) or Forward to Victory (re-roll charge) once per game without actually being issued the order and without a command point being spent. 

Expert: Another once-per-game fee order one, this time for All Out Attack (+1 to hit) or All Out Defence (+1 to saves). Always useful to have either so getting it without spending CP is especially nice. 

It can be pretty obvious now why you’ll want to include at least one of these in your army. They’re free, offer potentially powerful bonuses and are flexible enough that you can usually fit 1-2 in most lists, sometimes more.

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But which units go in which?

The 8 Core Battalions available for use use a mix of both of the above, having a minimum number of units you must take and a maximum that you’re allowed to take but some of these don’t make a lot of sense to try and max them out. A battalion that gives Unified you want to max out if possible to decrease your drops and have a better chance of choosing who goes first. One that gives Slayers or Swift you’ll likely have a plan and use of the free orders early on anyways but having more units in them gives more flexibility. You are able to take duplicates of the 6 Core Rules battalions however are allowed maximum 1 of each of the Core Battalions from the General’s Handbook. Magnificent and Strategists offer nothing for maxing them out so you really just want to fill the minimum and move on.

The 6 basic battalions from the core rules are:

Warlord

Minimum Requirements: 1 Commander, 2 Sub-Commanders, 1 Troops

Optional Units: 1 Commander, 2 Sub-Commanders, 1 Troops

Battalion Ability Granted: Magnificent AND Strategists 

This battalion is for the army that has a Troops unit that doesn’t need to be in another battalion while wanting an extra enhancement and a free command point to use during the game. Many sub-factions require an army to take a specific artefact, so being able to take a second artefact and opening up your big Hero to take the Amulet of Destiny or making one of your heroes a Wizard with the Arcane Tome is a common, and good, choice. 

Command Entourage

Minimum Requirements: 1 Commander, 2 Sub-Commanders

Optional Units: 1 Sub-Commander

Battalion Ability Granted: Either Magnificent OR Strategists

Diet Warlord Battalion. For the army that wants an extra enhancement (let’s be real you’re not normally taking this for the extra CP) but also doesn’t have a Troops unit free to fill a Warlord. 

Battle Regiment

Minimum Requirements: 1 Commander, 2 Troops

Optional Units: 2 Sub-Commanders, 3 Troops, a Monster OR Artillery

Battalion Ability Granted: Unified. You deploy all of these units at once in deployment and this is not a small battalion either, many armies can be built to fit into just 1 Battle Regiment.

For the army that wants to guarantee (as best they can) to choose who goes first in the first battle round of the game. Any army is able to make use of this battalion, however it’s often more elite troop armies that will fit every unit into just this one battalion giving tactical flexibility out the gate. Choosing to go first is not the be-all-end-all of wargaming though and if your army would rather have more enhancements or make use of other battalions instead that’s perfectly fine! Just be prepared to not be making that choice going into turn 1.

Battle regiments are tough, because it’s a bit of an all-or-nothing gamble. If you don’t get first drop there’s no real benefit here so when list building you’re often deciding if you’re going to put everything into as few battle regiments as possible (ideally 1) or putting them elsewhere to diversify your options (such as in a Warlord Battalion). There are benefits to both

Grand Battery

Minimum Requirements: 1 Sub-Commander, 1 Artillery

Optional Units: 2 Artillery

Battalion Ability Granted: Slayers

There aren’t many armies making use of this battalion that wouldn’t rather simply be a one-drop. Cities of Sigmar and certain builds of Stormcast are 2 that spring to mind though. Being able to give a piece of artillery All Out Attack or Unleash Hell once per game for free can be big, if you’re running low on CP one turn or even if you don’t have a hero nearby to issue the order normally. 

Vanguard

Minimum Requirements: 1 Sub-Commander, 1 Troops

Optional Units: 2 Troops

Battalion Ability Granted: Swift

Again, a battalion that might not be seen so often, but one army that does come to mind could be Gitz since their Troggoth units don’t have a unit champion to issue themselves orders normally being able to re-roll an important charge or even just auto-running 6” in a turn could be a big help for movement. 

Linebreaker

Minimum Requirements: 1 Commander, 2 Monsters

Optional Units: 1 Monster 

Battalion Ability Granted: Expert. These are units that want to be using either of the 2 orders allowed from this battalion so will never be a waste. If you’re taking multiple monsters to begin with it’s a solid choice, however overshadowed by one of the battalions below. 

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And now for the 2 Core Battalions from the General’s Handbook, which again are allowed max 1 each per army. These don’t give the standard abilities as above and instead grant a specific ability. 

Hunters of the Heartlands

Minimum Requirements: 2 Troops

Optional Units: 1 Troop

Battalion Ability Granted: Units in this battalion cannot be selected as the target of monstrous rampage actions. This is huge, but better for some armies than for others. This means these units cannot be Stomped on (avoiding mortal wounds) or Roared at (so they can always be issued orders) meaning they’ll always be fighting at pique efficiency even against Monsters. Units that rely on Orders to be able to deal damage especially like this one though, and is common in Fyreslayer and some Idoneth armies.

Alpha – Beast Pack

Minimum Requirements: 2 Monsters

Optional Units: 1 Monster 

Battalion Ability Granted: After deploying both armies but before the first battle round begins each Monster in this battalion gets to move D6”. Now of course these are Monsters that are not Leaders so limits is usability for some armies, but a few Stonehorn Beastriders or Terrogeists moving a little extra won’t go amiss. 

Putting It Together

When putting your list together thinking about which units you’ll want to include to fit into Core Battalions should be near the top of the list, whether that’s to ensure that you get those extra enhancements you want or to minimise the number of drops your list has. On the flip side of that, don’t start to think that you need every unit in your army to fit into a battalion either. Unless you’re aiming for a single-drop army list then it’s perfectly fine to have a hero or a unit that doesn’t go inside one of the battalions you’ve chosen. Generally speaking there are two approaches to list building: Going First and All the Goodies.

With Going First Simply get all the unified battalions you can get. In most armies this is going to be just utilizing Battle Regiments but a few armies, like Stormcast get their own as well. Ideally you want to get it into 1 or 2 battalions so you can always get to go first and dictate terms. Sometimes it’s better to go second and hope for that double if you know you cant cross the field, or go first if you feel a turn 1 charge is viable.

Alternatively, take the All the Goodies approach and try and cram in all the Warlord and Command Entourages you can. Get some extra Artefacts (might I recommend Amulet of Destiny or Arcane Tome with Flaming Weapon?) or some extra spells for diversity. Whatever your army does, make it better. You probably wont get priority much, unless your opponent is taking the same approach with more drops but that’s ok you got more toys to play with.

You can hybridize this as well, to some effect. You can grab a Warlord or Hunters of the Heartland and then do a Battle Regiment to corral whatever is left in your army. It may not have a guaranteed first drop but it can reliably outpace dual Warlord lists. Any priority gained is still a victory.

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